Is your nonprofit newsletter getting flagged as spam? How to avoid the spam folder.


There’s something liberating in flagging an annoying marketing email as spam—that act gives you the power to ignore such messages in the future. However, on the flip side when you’re sending out your nonprofit newsletters, you cross your fingers that no one marks your emails as spam. Not only does this mean the recipient won’t receive your future messages, but it can also hurt your nonprofit’s ability to send email newsletters in general.

Despite the problems with spam, email marketing is still one of your nonprofit’s best bets for reaching your volunteers, donors and prospects. In fact, according to Econsultancy, three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent to good” ROI.

So how do you avoid having your nonprofit newsletters being flagged as spam?

Lisa, VP of Marketing at ArcStone, offers some best practices to avoid being put in the Promotions tab or marked as spam. If you avoid spammy email tactics and come from a more personal place, your nonprofit newsletter should be in the safe.

Be authentic: Write to donors and volunteers as you would a friend.

Instead of getting so caught up in your “audience” and sending your email out to so many people, write it as if you’re talking to a friend or supporter. If you look at your email as an outsider, does it feel salesy or conversational? If it doesn’t sound authentic, it’s likely it’ll come across that way to your email list and they’ll avoid your emails in the future.

Be clear: Tell them what you’re writing about in your subject line.

If you pull the “bait and switch” trick, you risk losing reader’s trust. Don’t rely on deception to get people to click on your email.

Be clever: Compel them to open your email.

Instead, take time to craft an email subject line that’s accurate AND clever. Here are some fun tools for generating a better subject line.

Be real: Find a real human from whom to send and sign your emails.

Even if people know your nonprofit’s email was sent out in bulk, they don’t want it to feel like it’s coming from a robot. Try to have someone from your nonprofit sign it or include your contact info in the email. If possible, give them someone to contact for questions and comments.

Don’t go crazy: Too many images or links can hurt your emails

Many email marketers attempt to make things stand out with several types of fonts and funky formatting, Not only will too many links and images cause each feature to lose power, emails full of these can come across as spam. Plus, with so many email servers out there, you can’t be quite sure if your formatting will register correctly.

Make it pretty: Use a well-designed email template

Similarly, switching up your formatting and not sticking to a template can cause your nonprofit to look inconsistent. It can be hard for your reader to navigate and process your email. To help them get the information they want as well as to align with your brand, have a professional design your email template and stick to it.

Avoid trigger keywords: Don’t rely on old tactics

When you think through how you process your own inbox, it’s likely there are certain words that immediately sound like sales to you. Make sure you avoid these overused phrases and are being original.

Keep unsubscribe available

It’s sad to lose those email addresses you fought so hard for, but removing the unsubscribe capabilities from your email will only hurt you. It should be up to the reader whether or not they are contacted. Some email marketing software, like MailChimp, will even remove your ability to send emails if you do so.

In the end, like many pieces of your nonprofit marketing puzzle, it comes back to being authentic. If your readers identify with your nonprofit and feel as though your email communications are coming right from you, they won’t feel the need to flag your newsletter as spam.

Get help with your email marketing strategy from the team at ArcStone. Learn more »

Enough New Year’s inspiration, time to get it all done (in 5 steps?) – January Nonprofit Marketing News

Seeing as your inbox has recently been flooded with several “top trends for the New Year” and other inspirational posts, we thought you might be feeling overwhelmed. We decided to simplify your main priorities down to five actionable steps.

Photo source: Angel Oak Creative

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – January 2017 – 

Here are 5 steps for…

1) Engaging donors, one step at a time

“…fundraisers that meet new donors and make asks without a plan usually find those donor relationships to be short lived.” Make your donor relationships last this year.

2) Sparking authenticity in your branding & messaging

Despite how personal it can be to partake in a nonprofit’s wonderful work, nonprofit branding and messaging can often feel impersonal. Find some ways to ensure you’re speaking authentically and connecting with your audience.

3) Increasing fundraising success

After so much fundraising during giving season, it’s good to reflect on some critical aspects of fundraising and take steps towards even more success this year.

4) Writing a newsletter that your members will actually read

You finally put the newsletter together and send it out, and you find out later, hardly anyone read it. Sound familiar? Write a newsletter that engages. Here’s how

5) Optimizing your nonprofit’s blog content (and finally seeing more traffic)

Have you verified your nonprofit site with Google, had Google crawl your posts, or tried the best SEO tools? If not, your blog isn’t as strong as it could be. Help your nonprofit be found online. 

5 nonprofit newsletter tips for increasing engagement


Why do you bother to write a nonprofit newsletter each month? Is it to update your donors and members on the latest happenings? To get people to look at your site? Or is it just so you can cross it off your to-do list?

Hold up. Your newsletter is your chance to do more than that. You finally have a chance to truly engage with supporters for your organization and perhaps inspire them to do even more to be a part of it. That’s powerful!

VP of marketing at ArcStone, Lisa, has given several nonprofits advice on the best ways to communicate to their members and general audience. She wrote out five tips to help you do a better job and I wanted to make sure you saw them.

1. Get personal with your subject line.

Instead of giving each email a dull title like “Winter 2017 Newsletter,” get creative. Give them the first line of a blog post to get them interested in reading the full story. Or, try personalization techniques to make the letter feel more authentic.

2. Set yourself up with a compelling template

It may take a bit more investment initially, but having a nicely laid out design will help readers digest the email and will keep it looking more professional long-term. Gather some inspiration from Canva or find some freebyies.

Canva Best Email Design Example

3. Draw attention to specific highlights

When you finally get around to writing your newsletter, it’s easy to forget all that your nonprofit has done over the course of the month. Keep a running list of what your nonprofit has accomplished, not just as a whole but all your individual staff members. Nancy Shwartz has some good ideas to help you share in an effective way.

4. Give a shout-out to super great people

You can also share the amazing work and progress of your donors, volunteers and those using your services. A bonus is that if you feature someone’s story in your newsletter, they will likely share that newsletter with friends and family, expanding your network.

5. Measure frequency & timing

Rather than just guessing when people read their email, start testing for the best send time and frequency level. This Entrepreneur article can help you start this measuring process. Allow a flexibility here – don’t promise readers you’ll only send out your email once a month as perhaps you’ll find the majority of your audience wants to hear more!

If you need some help from our digital strategy team, please do send us a note. We love to work with nonprofits!

Nonprofits get ready for 2017 – December Nonprofit Marketing News

I think we can all agree that 2016 has been an interesting year. As December winds down, we here at ArcStone and The Nerdy Nonprofit are trying to focus on our accomplishments of the past year.

Below are a few of the nonprofit websites we launched for our partners in 2016 and here is a post on some of our other favorite nonprofit websites.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities


Minnesota Corn Grower’s Association

Kids in Need Foundation

Enough about us, check out some of the top industry posts below and start 2017 off right!

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – December 2016 – 

#1. Nonprofit communications budgets: How big should yours be? 

Having a budget can be both liberating and restricting. Knowing how much to budget in the first place is a whole ‘nother story. Here is some data and insights from the Nonprofit Communications report. Check out Kivi Leroux Miller’s post on the topic here.

#2 A year in review for marketing, design & tech. Our top blog posts of 2016.

From comparing top email marketing software (Mailchimp vs. Emma vs. Constant Contact) to the 5 things we learned redesigning 5 nonprofit websites, we’ve got our top 10 posts in one place.

#3. 6 Book recommendations for nonprofit communicators

My personal favorite on the list provided by Nonprofit MarCommunity is Quiet by Susan Cain. Must read for any ‘introvert’.

#4 Is SEO dead? The state of SEO in 2017

SEO is still important – but not in the same way it used to be. Our head of marketing, Lisa, breaks down 20 years of personal experience with search engine optimization, leaving us with a clear picture of SEO today. A must read for any marketer.

#5 $10,000 in free marketing a month? Google AdWords Grant for nonprofits

I have the AdWords grant conversation with several nonprofits each week. Most are either frustrated, aren’t seeing the value of the grant, or have never applied. Before you give up, please give the grant another chance! Read this post and set a goal to improve your campaigns in 2017.

Need help strategizing for 2017? Contact our team today to discuss a few ideas.
Jenna & Chloe

5 reasons for nonprofits to be thankful – November Nonprofit Marketing News

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Recipe from our team here »)

A reminder of why your nonprofit can be thankful…

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – November 2016 – 

#1. Your own nonprofit work & all the good you do.

Capterra posted “7 Reasons to Be Thankful for Nonprofits.” It’s a sweet and encouraging post you should take a minute to share with your team – especially if you get caught up in the stress of Giving Season planning.

Read the 7 reasons »

#2. This offer from ArcStone to set up your Google Analytics

From ArcStone





We want you to actually use your Google Analytics data come 2017. Find out how we can help you get set up with a customized dashboard and automated reporting.

Learn what’s included »

#3. The unprecedented rise in donations post-election

Article from The Atlantic






After the election, nonprofits report a spike in donations. What can your nonprofit do to meet people’s desires to get involved at this time?

Read more »

#4. A #GivingTuesday guide for procrastinators

Tips from Network for Good

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 2.08.23 PM.png




Not ready #GivingTuesday next week? Here are 3 pointers for catching up on the basics, quickly.

Review the tips»

#5 The potential for a better website experience

Post from The Nerdy Nonprofit





Big Brothers Big Sisters had a well-timed redesign. The combination of this and the rise in nonprofit activity post-election resulted in 4X more volunteer signups than they were seeing.

Learn how »

Need help strategizing for 2017? Contact our team today to discuss a few ideas.

Jenna & Chloe

Holiday marketing prep guide for nonprofits – Part 1: Plan & Promotion Ideas


“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” may not be ringing through your ears quite yet, but the hope is that, with enough holiday foresight you’ll be able to sign it at the top of your lungs without worry of your nonprofit’s year-end fundraising goals.

Thank goodness for digital marketing giant, Hubspot, and its holiday content offer, “The Guide to Ecommerce Holiday Success.” And thank goodness for the Nerdy Nonprofit and how we’re about to break down this guide for nonprofit’s specifically.

Step 1: Ask Questions

  • What worked for your fundraising efforts last year? OR what should you definitely do again?
  • … and what didn’t? Rather, what should you definitely weigh heavily before repeating
  • Did you time your heightened efforts appropriately?
  • What is your fundraising goal?
  • Which social channel, content format and/or advertising method worked for your audience?

Step 2: Break all your nonprofit’s fundraising goals down into digestible pieces

As Hubspot reminds us, it’s much too overwhelming to accomplish all your goals all at once. Find ways to silo your goals and map out what you hope to accomplish when. One Hubspot recommendation that might really help is to break out the Holiday Season into several pieces…

  • Thanksgiving: Mon., Nov. 21st – Thurs., Nov. 24th
  • Black Friday: Fri., Nov. 25th – Sat., Nov. 26th
  • Cyber Monday: Sun., Nov. 27th – Tues., Nov. 29th
  • GIVING TUESDAY (our own edition): Tues., Nov. 29th
  • Christmas & Hanukkah: Thurs., Dec. 1st – Sun., Dec. 25th
  • New Years: Mon., Dec. 26th – Wed., Jan. 4th

Knowing what goals you hope to meet and at what point, will help this time of year feel more approachable. Moreover, uncovering what audience to target and via which digital network will help you be more efficient in your digital marketing efforts.

Remember this effort at this time of year is worth it! Especially if you target Giving Tuesday, you may see donations well beyond your goals. Check out this encouraging data regarding Giving Tuesday and its development since its initiation:

Data source: Wikipedia & Blackbaud

Step 3: Start some serious brainstorming

Now that you’ve established your nonprofit’s goals, timelines and focus, it’s time to get creative. We’ve discussed preparing for Giving Tuesday in a previous post, but how can we get creative with the entire season of campaigns?

Hubspot broke down a list of ideas to get the creative juices flowing, but let’s apply them to nonprofit’s specifically:

  • Take the idea of gifting and craft it for your campaign:

– Encourage your audience to give a gift to their loved one and also a gift to someone they might not know. Underline how valuable gift-giving is in general and then show how much a gift could mean to a stranger.

– Understand that your audience may be feeling stressed about finances and incorporate that into your messaging. You understand they may not feel they have extra cash as they buy presents for the family AND donate, so could their family decide to sacrifice a gift and give one to those in need?

  • Use the age-old marketing tactic of urgency:

– Even though donations are valuable all year round, use a countdown to remind your audience of timing. People often put off donating and doing good till later when they believe they’ll have more time and resources. Emphasize that the difference will be biggest if they make a donation now.

– Tie in some humor with last-minute shoppers. Are they a little late to getting to the store or sending that Christmas card? Well luckily it’s never too late to give a small gift with HUGE benefits to your cause.

  • Reward those who’ve helped:

– The holidays are perhaps the best time to be thanking your donors. For one, they deserve thanks. Likewise, hearing from your cause about how grateful you are and what a difference they made may help them feel inclined to donate again. The holidays are filled with anxiety as people want to gift their friends and family, and we often feel guilty when we can’t afford this or that or when we get too materialistic ourselves. Remind your donors of the good they’ve done and the true meaning of the holidays.

Step 4: Focus on email specifically

Maybe you haven’t been the best at reviewing your nonprofit’s current email marketing efforts (which you should be!), but if there’s any time you must, it’s now! During this season, potential donors and campaigners are receiving more salesy emails than ever, some of which leave them feeling dry and discouraged as the true spirit of the holiday is dampened. Your nonprofit has time to stand out – as long as you find the best subject line, the most concise and effective messaging and the easiest user experience possible.

Analyze your nonprofit email marketing effectively with the help of “Would YOU read your nonprofit marketing newsletter?

Step 5: Create a social media budget and AdWords campaign

Yes, email is the go-to tool as it’s effective AND affordable, but have a plan for your other channels as well. Facebook, Twitter and especially Google have free resources for nonprofits – take advantage of them in full throttle for your nonprofit’s holiday marketing. In the very least, we strongly encourage you to set up your Google AdWords campaign to gain $10,000 in Google Grant money.

Hubspot also provides you with several easy-to-use social media calendars.

Get strategizing and read Part 2 next!

10 nonprofit website best practices + more – September Nonprofit Marketing News

What if you could show your donors first hand the problems your nonprofit is seeking to solve? Well HOPE International is doing exactly that with virtual reality. You can read more about the cool concept and impact here.

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – September 2016 –

Software: Does your nonprofit need marketing automation?

From HubSpot

Marketing automation software can be an awesome tool but is definitely overkill for some. [Read More]

Branding: Stop bragging, start storytelling

Post by ArcStone

“The Millennial generation will not sit there and pretend to be moved by something they are not interested in.”  [Read More]

Best Practices: 10 website design and email marketing best practices

Post from Nonprofit Tech for Good

10 straight forward tips to improve your website and email efforts. [Read More]

Promotion: 8 unique and valuable ways to promote your brand new website

Post from ArcStone

Your new website is finally complete. How do you successfully promote your new marketing machine? [Read More]

Have a website redesign or new marketing campaign on the horizon? Contact our team today to discuss a few ideas.

7 instances when it may be okay to DIY your nonprofit digital marketing


The Atlantic recently posted a daunting article, “The Plight of the Overworked Nonprofit Employee.” As if nonprofit marketers weren’t already stretching their tight budgets enough, the article indicates this may get worse.

Due to a new law going into effect in December, “millions of employees who make less than [$47,476] will be guaranteed overtime… when they work more than 40 hours a week” (The Atlantic). This sounds like a positive benefit to many, but for some, it could have negative consequences.

Since many nonprofit workers fall into this category, it could be less affordable for nonprofits to have a sufficient number of employees. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group stated, “[T]o cover higher staffing costs forced upon us under the rule, we will be forced to hire fewer staff and limit the hours those staff can work—all while the well-funded special interests that we’re up against will simply spend more.”

Whether or not you share this worry, it’s always good to know which tools you have in your back pocket to help with nonprofit marketing efficiency. We don’t often recommend DIY-ing your way through the digital sphere, but there are some instances when we think you just need a little boost to be able to take care of a digital task. Here are tools and tricks we’ve worked with in the past to help clients maximize their budget.

7 digital marketing instances where you might get away with DIY-ing

1. Google Analytics Go-To’s

If you simply want to know the basics of what’s going on your site – i.e. site traffic, referrals, popular pages, etc. – this blog can help you know where to look when you open your account. It probably won’t replace an agency or knowledgable staff member, but it can help you manage some of the day-to-day metrics and stay on top of your Analytics game without being certified.

2. Marketing Automation Software

A great way to see results with your digital marketing is through automating some of what you do. This post walks through how Hubspot has helped ArcStone organize and optimize blog content, promote on social media, manage email marketing, easily update our website, keep track of leads and sales, and keep most of our marketing content in one hub. We talk about how this could apply to a nonprofit as well. If you are running low on staff members, having a strong CRM is crucial to tracking volunteers, donors and your web content.

3. Email Marketing Software

In this post we visually mapped out some of our top pics for email marketing – Mailchimp, Contant Contact and Emma.  Rather than spending hours each day tracking down donors and responding to individual emails, using a email marketing software service can automate much of this process. Even the free accounts will help you manage your email newsletter subscribers, send out special offers to people who downloaded your content, or send out a reminder to those who registered for an event.

4. Social Media Tricks

Keeping track of your social publishing calendar can be a huge time sucker. It’s also been said that giving your social media responsibilities over to an intern can have negative effects, as they don’t know your organization and industry well enough. This post walks through each social media account that your nonprofit likely uses and how to optimize a post on each. Or review this podcast and exercise to learn about how to narrow down your social media focus to those platforms that really count.

5. Content Management Tools

If you simply need a free (or cheap) option to help you manage both blog content and social publishing, this post can help you select a great content management tool – check out what we think of Trello, Coschedule and Buffer.

6. Design Tool – Canva

We definitely don’t recommend handling all your own design work yourself. However, there are a few pieces of your digital content that you can probably create within Canva. This post points to how the Spina Bifida Association used their free tools well in email marketing and on social media to promote a conference.

7. Additional Tech Tools

If you’ve already invested your full budget into tech tools and need a few options that are more affordable, these five tools could cover the rest of your bases. There are a few tools we can recommend for site design, donations and other digital needs. Take a look at what we think of Squarespace, Upwork, Clickbooth, Searchmetrics, and Paypal.

If you need any further recommendations or would like to outsource any work to a professional, get in touch with our digital strategists at ArcStone. We do free website audits to assess your situation and help you prioritize your goals.

Olympics + your nonprofit – August Nonprofit Marketing News

With so much focus on fundraising in the nonprofit world, we often forget to reflect on what to do before we ask for money. This post, “Nonprofit marketing isn’t all about the ask” with thoughts from Gary Vaynerchuk, may help you reassess your messaging goals.

More on what we found important to nonprofit marketers this month:

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – August 2016 – 

Fundraising: 3 Ways Nonprofit Board Members Can Tell Stories & Raise Money

From the Storytelling Nonprofit

It’s hard for board members to constantly try to raise money, so the more direction you can give, the better. [Read More]nonprofit-marketing-news

Social Media: What wording should your nonprofit use for LinkedIn vs. Google+? When? What format?

Infographic from MyCleverAgency

 A nonprofit’s guide to social media posts. [Read More]

Facebook: Even when your board doesn’t know it, building a Facebook community is worthwhile

Success story from Presbyterian Homes & Services

How their determination to focus on Facebook is paying off. [Read More]

Inspiration: Good Advice from Good People (for good nonprofit workers like you)

Thoughts from Olympians

How to crush self doubt. [Read More]

Inside ArcStone: ArcStonian Office Olympics

With our top office athletes + Nick’s video footage

Spoiler Alert: We will win the gold [Watch ArcStone Archery here]


Pokémon Go + your nonprofit – July Nonprofit Marketing News

If you haven’t been hiding out at the summer cabin the past few weeks, it’s likely you’ve at least heard of Pokémon Go, if not been tempted to play it at all your lunch breaks. You may even be sick of hearing about it by now, however, this post from Nonprofit Quarterly points to ways in which you could optimize it for your nonprofit’s cause.

Go catch em all with your next creative fundraiser. For more trends and tricks, read the recap of the month below with our favorite posts.

– The Nerdy Nonprofit – July 2016 –

Social media lesson: Which networks should you be on?

Podcast + worksheet from co-owners of ArcStone, David & Lisa


Take 10 minutes to listen and determine where to focus your social media energy.

Fresh ideas: Snapchat success story

Contribution from Kate Metzger, digital strategist at St. Thomas University


It might be time for you to try out this social media platform. Read how this nonprofit school targeted their audience with 3 different successful Snapchat strategies.

Google tip: Maximize on micro-moments

From Think with Google


Meet your audience in their time of need with some ideas from Google and our team.

Fundraising: New tool for fundraising data visualization

From Foundation Maps


Yes, you can track where your funding comes from and yes, it’s free.

If you can spare 30 minutes or so this summer, reply to this message to sign up for a podcast interview. We’d love to chat and hear your story.

Now get Go-ing!  

Jenna & Chloe